The Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia (SVR, or Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki Rossiyskoy Federatsii), the successor to the Soviet KGB’s First Commander-in-Chief, is the custodian of the KGB’s property of “active measures.” The group is engaged in political warfare by using sabotage operations to weaken the United States and the links between NATO allies. And just like The latest report from Yahoo News Michael Isikoff, SVR played an insignificant role in the activities leading up to the 2016 US presidential election in order to create a narrative to the disclosure of the hacking activities of other Russian intelligence agencies in the Democratic National Committee ( DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). SVR wants to turn around a conspiracy theory about the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich—a conspiracy theory that promoted Rich as the source of the DNC and Clinton campaign emails published by Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks.
This fabricated story led to Rich being killed not in a robbery, as the Washington DC police found, but by a hit squad hired by Hillary Clinton as retribution for leaking campaign emails to WikiLeaks. This conspiracy theory was planted by various websites and later promoted by InfoWars’ Alex Jones and other “alt-right” media outlets. Finally, it’s even on the rise within the Trump administration as investigations by the Justice Department into the DNC and Clinton email hacks move forward.
Julian Assange suggested that Rich was a source—and was killed as a result—in an interview with Dutch television. He made those suggestions even though he knew WikiLeaks had obtained the emails after Rich was killed. Assange’s suggestion garnered additional attention, which was also fueled by posts from a Twitter account: @TEN_GOP, a fake Tennessee Republican account. @TEN_GOP is one of several accounts operated by the Internet Research Institute, an organization based in St.
Former Assistant US Attorney Deborah Sines, who oversaw the investigation into Rich’s murder until her retirement in 2018, told Isikoff that she had seen copies of two SVR intelligence reports about Seth Rich that US intelligence agencies had receive. The reports contained fake “intelligence bulletins” that said Rich had thought he was meeting with the FBI but was instead meeting with a group of Clinton-hired assassins. The bulletin was posted Kinidoesitmean.com— A site used to host a number of Russian anti-virus campaigns.
Sines said the motivation of the campaign is clear: “If Seth is a whistleblower to WikiLeaks, he has nothing to do with the Russians. So of course Russia’s interest in doing this is incredibly surprising.”
At the time SVR spread the conspiracy, Trump supporters, including former adviser Steve Bannon, continued to push the story with media outlets. “Great story … he’s Bernie’s guy … he’s a deal breaker, obviously,” Bannon said of Rich in a March 17, 2017 text message to a CBS “60 Minutes” producer that was later seen by Yahoo News.
In May of 2017, Fox News reported a claim that an FBI forensics report showed Rich was in communication with WikiLeaks before his death—a story promoted on Sean Hannity’s program by Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump. Sines told Isikoff that the story was “a complete hoax.” And an FBI spokesperson told Yahoo that the FBI has yet to open an investigation into Rich’s murder, let alone his laptop. Rich’s death is considered a Washington County police matter. (Fox News was eventually forced to retract the story.)
There are components of the newly lit Rich disinformation campaign that mirrors a Soviet campaign blame for the AIDS crisis on the US military— a campaign has come out of SVR’s previous organization called Operation INFEKTION. That campaign used a 1983 story planted in an Indian newspaper as a springboard to spread it. Today, the rise of social media has made these types of jobs very complicated.